Where do we begin? The Freshness and The Swagger are tag-teaming the issue of how good our volleyball team actually is. The reason for the dual column is simple: This issue is huge. Our team is incredible and is lining up a national championship as we speak.
But let’s hit the brakes for a bit. The NCAA Men’s Volleyball Final Four at Brigham Young University in Utah is not happening for another two months and it would be ridiculous to predict who will win that. However, after doing some very intense research (watching games and getting hyped about it), it is safe to say you can book your tickets to Utah.
The team is blowing up right now and is steamrolling to another conference championship. We have lost only two games in conference play, both to the other top teams in the MPSF. We are ranked second in the nation, not to mention that our program has been ranked in the top 10 for 60 consecutive weeks. But rankings are merely numbers in this conference. On any given night, against any given school, there is an incredibly high chance of getting upset. But that is the thing; when smacked in the face with adversity, our team rises to the occasion.
But what happens when the air of the arena and the feel of the opposing team are completely different than anything they have faced all season? Will our homies on the court be able to carry the avalanche of momentum they have garnered this season and close out the best teams from around the country? The answer is yes.
The best team in the country that we have yet to beat is Pennsylvania State University, and after doing some research, we believe UCI will come out on top.
Penn State plays on the East Coast, the far superior coast for volleyball. Because they play on the East Coast, Penn State’s schedule does not match the difficulty of UCI’s. There is no doubt that UCI is beating tougher opponents. Why is Penn State ranked number one and why are we ranked number two then? The answer is simple: Penn State won the national championship last season, so they began the season ranked number one. Couple that with their schedule and they remain on top.
Penn State nevertheless does deserve credit. They won the national championship last season and they return two All-American middle blockers in Max Lipsitz and Max Holt. With middle blockers as good as these two, it doesn’t matter how good the players around them are; they will win games.
We can speculate all we want, but a connection between these two teams would serve better for our argument. We got that connection on Wednesday with the arrival of Loyola-Chicago University. Both the Nittany Lions and the Anteaters shared a common opponent in Loyola-Chicago.
But check this: The Ramblers upset Penn State 3-2 earlier this season in the Nittany Lions first defeat this season. UCI handled Loyola-Chicago in three straight sets. Jon Steller was not even on his game. We are better than Penn State.
Loyola Head Coach Shane Davis didn’t agree, at least with the hypothetical situation that The Swagger presented him. When asked whom he would pick in a Penn State-UCI match up at BYU, Coach Davis chose the team he beat. His reasoning:
“UCI has a very good inside-out game, but Penn State has one of the best middle blocking in the country. At BYU, if you try to serve hard the ball will go out of bounds more often,” Davis said.
The thin air in BYU carried the ball further than in lower altitude arenas. It is similar to the effect at Coors Field, where balls carry further in the light Denver air. However, humidors have reduced this effect recently.
Head Coach John Speraw mentioned that the physical elements in Utah will be a factor that teams will need to consider. He reponded to Coach Davis’ prediction.
“His assessment is fair, but both teams won’t be able to serve in that altitude … I would like to get there and find out,” Coach Speraw said.
We both looked at each other and smiled, with a belief in victory.
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